“Pacific Rim: Uprising”

Go, go Power Ra–… I mean Go, go Gypsy Avenger! That sounds right, yes?

Ten years after the Battle of the Breach, Jake Pantecost (John Boyega playing the son of Idris Elba’s character in Pacific Rim) re-enlists in the Jaeger program to train a new group of young pilots. He reconnects with his estranged best friend Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) and the two find themselves thrown into a new war with a mysterious group of rogue Jaegers. But why?

Uprising follows its predecessor’s formula – an underdog pilot joins the Jaeger program and ends up in a rivalry, there’s a motivational speech before a big battle, underdog saves the day, and there’s a setup for another movie. Good news is Uprising has some new tricks up its sleeve, despite being formulaic. It’s also goofy fun.

Uprising expands its world building. We learn in the first act that people enjoy living in abandon mansions, there’s a trade system, and Jake trades for his preferred goods (he trades a Ferrari for a sriracha supply). We also learn the Kaiju have telepathic powers, making them even more formidable. In terms of character arcs and narrative, Uprising is almost the same movie as Independence Day: Resurgence. I forgave the similarities because Uprising tries new things.

The movie takes risky moves with notable characters Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day). I won’t get into details, but I applauded the writers for once again taking the franchise into a new direction. Director Steven S. DeKnight might not be on Del Toro’s level in terms of flare and action sequences, but he still does a competent job with the Jaeger and Kaiju sequences.

I loved Pacific Rim, but it took itself too seriously. Uprising improves by acknowledging its own silliness. Boyega and Eastwood’s buddy cop banter, along with Day’s over-the-top performance add to the movie’s charm. I was reluctant going into the sequel, but I would be okay with a third, fourth, and even a fifth Pacific Rim.

Grade: B

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“Colossal”

Self-destructive behavior is toxic and harmful to others. Especially when you’re self-destructive and control a Kaiju. Wait, what?

“Colossal” stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria. She’s an unemployed alcoholic who’s boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) dumps her. She returns to her hometown and befriends bar owner Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and his pals Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson), indulging in several binders.

Meanwhile, a Kaiju surfaces and attacks South Korea. Gloria’s further alarmed when she discovers she’s the one who controls this creature and has to right her wrongs. Oscar and Tim both stand in her way, creating humor and tension.

“Colossal” was advertised as a sci-fi comedy, but don’t be fooled. This is NOT a comedy, but a character study. Gloria’s drinking and selfish behavior hurt Tim and Oscar while her creature moments devastate a whole country. The creature is a metaphor for self-loathing; who knew a giant monster movie could have such strong social commentary?

Oscar and Tim aren’t saints either. Oscar depends on Gloria and controls her, making himself feel better. Tim, on the other hand, critiques Gloria for her behavior but condescends her choices she makes in pulling herself together. He clearly has high expectations of her that aren’t met.

Hathaway plays Gloria gracefully, heightening the character’s flaws and noble intentions with humor and emotion. Sudeikis delivers one of his best performances as Oscar. He’s pathetic and abusive, but also tragic and occasionally funny (he steals one scene with fireworks and a monologue about irresponsibility). That’s not easy to accomplish.

Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo transitions “Colossal” between several genres smoothly without force. The creature effects are impressive on a small budget and even the dramatic moments are shot like a monster movie. Audiences will be divided over “Colossal” because some viewers will praise it for its depth and others will criticize it for being misleading. All I say is give “Colossal” a chance.

Grade: A